Wear, what, why, when?

When did dressing for summer actually start to mean undressing? Stripping off everything bar your upper layer of epidermis and possibly some strategically placed scraps of denim? It's especially prevalent in England, where the merest flicker of a sunbeam is enough for ordinary people to shed their clothes with nymphomaniac abandon and bask in any public space. What happened to that English reputation for prudery, frosty reserve, the idea of dressing, and acting, proper on every and any occasion?

That sounds like a point of view proffered by the dowager aunt constantly ridiculed in Evelyn Waugh novels, or Dame Maggie Smith as Violet, the Dowager Countess of Grantham in Downton Abbey. Everyone's bored of Downton Abbey as fashion fodder, but I couldn't help but ponder over it of late – read, obsessively watching every episode again. It's difficult to draw comparisons between the clobber sported at Downton and that which we see on the street every day. There's a hundred or so years between the two, admittedly – but the difference between 1913 and 2013 is much more marked than, say, 1813 versus 1913.

The primary difference is sheer quantity. When Downton sees war declared, it's the height of summer – but the only differentiation between garb for July and December seems to be a paler palette and a profusion of lace and chiffon. Bar the floaty stuff, it's the same for the men. I don't want to come across all Dowager, but there's something attractive about that idea of dressing with a degree of propriety.

The Autumn/Winter 2013 shows certainly seem to offer a counterpart to what we're seeing on the street. Hemlines slither down the legs to hover at mid-calf, designers make another stab at trussing women up in mid-century dirndls and taut pencil skirts, and there's much play with arcane accessories like fur stoles and opera gloves. Marco Zanini at Rochas dressed women with propriety; with dignity. Dignity may seem heavyweight verbiage, but it's more readily applied to a kidskin glove and duchesse-satin ball gown than short-shorts and a crop top.

As for men? Come winter, the only flesh you'll want to flash is a previously shocking show of ankle above a hefty-soled Prada clodhopper.

I hate to sound old-fashioned, but I for one can hardly wait.